Why are those balls lined up on top of the rail?

erdnase

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I saw this 1905 photo of men playing pool in Minneapolis, and noticed on the first two tables they have balls sitting in a line on top of the rail at the foot of the table. Seems like a very awkward place to have them. Anybody know about why this was done and what they are playing? (It looks like there are already 14 balls sitting on the rail in the foreground with two more object balls on the table.)
 

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Bob Jewett

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Weird. It also looks like the foot rail is grooved to let the balls sit there.
 

Black-Balled

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It is not just us, everybody in the background of the picture is looking at that guy funny too.
 
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Bob Jewett

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Maybe he Plays Carambolage or 3 cushion billiard
If you look at the second table, it also has balls up on the rail and several balls on the table. Also, pocketless tables for carom billiards were commonly available in the US at that time, so there was not much need to use a pool table for carom.

As for the game being played, there are several games that use more than 15 balls. There are both 16-ball games and 21-ball games.

I suspect that they were playing a game that required some complicated scoring that players had to be able to see, perhaps with multiple players. Having the balls up on the rail would make it easier to keep track of what was happening.
 
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